Soundtrack to the miners’ strike of 84/85

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THIRTY years after the beginning of the miners’ strike, a musical homage will be performed in the heart of a former mining community.

A string quartet and 18-piece brass ensemble will perform an evocative soundtrack, alongside a screening of rarely-seen archive footage of miners, at Easington Social Welfare Centre on March 7.

The Miners’ Hymns, a unique music and film project, was first performed at Durham Cathedral three years ago and has gone on to be screened around the world.

The forthcoming Easington performance, which takes place as part of a weekend of events commemorating the anniversary of the start of the 1984-85 miners’ strike, is perhaps the most poignant.

David Metcalfe, artistic director at Forma, who commissioned the project, is himself from Easington – whose pit was the last to close in Durham in 1993.

“We first presented Miners’ Hymns at Durham Cathedral in 2010, which sold out,” he explained. “This will be the first time we have re-staged it in the UK with live music.

“It’s not a documentary in the way you expect, it’s an artist’s film which draws upon a century’s-worth of film footage, which shows the everyday life of people working in the North East coalfields.

“It takes a non-linear route through the story while making beautiful connections between people and places.

“It’s a project that has such a resonance in Easington. It’s amazing that one generation ago, people were working down the mines in the area. It was almost like a different country.”

Created by US artist Bill Morrison and Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, the performance coincides with an exhibition of trade union banners.

It follows critically-acclaimed live presentations in the US and Europe, and a seven-month UK tour of the film version of the work in cinemas, museums and community spaces.

As part of the project, Bill Morrison searched BBC, British Film Institute and other archives for footage that spanned more than a hundred years, which he then edited with contemporary aerial footage of the former coalfield sites. Jóhannsson’s score for the film draws upon the brass music tradition that was so intertwined with the mining communities of the Durham Coalfield, when each colliery had its own brass band.

The score is performed by the Iskra String Quartet and an 18-piece brass ensemble, comprising of players from the Durham-based Riverside Band and orchestral musicians.

A live performance will also take place at Sage Gateshead on March 5.

•Tickets for Miners’ Hymns at Easington Social Welfare Centre are free, but strictly limited, so must be booked in advance.

Tickets will be available from January 6 on Tel. 527 0635 or by email on